Monday, March 13, 2017

No rest for Lukács

[Via Marginal Revolution].

On January 25, 2017, the Budapest City Council decided to remove the statue of Georg Lukács from a park in the city’s 13th district.
"Before 1914, Lukács’s early works were received with great antipathy by the literary establishment in Hungary; they were found to be too “German”  -  that is to say, too philosophical, not impressionistic and positivistic enough.

That was only the beginning, of course; from then on, Lukács would be attacked from the right incessantly, all his life. Lukács didn’t fare much better in leftist circles, either. When his most important book, History and Class Consciousness (1923), came out, it was savaged by both the Second and the Third International. It wasn’t to be republished until the 1960s. Lukács was given an ultimatum: if he wanted to stay in the Party, he had to repudiate the book and subject himself to self-criticism, which is what he eventually did.

He was harshly criticized in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Soon after he relocated from Vienna to Moscow, Lukács was exiled to Tashkent, and silenced. But in 1945, the Party needed him  -  or rather, his fame  - in Hungary. He agreed to return there rather reluctantly; East Germany was also an option.

After the dictatorship was established and consolidated in Hungary in 1947 - ’48, the “Lukács Debate” was launched in earnest: he was attacked as a “deviationist,” a “bourgeois,” as a man who did not esteem Soviet “socialist realism.” (Truth be told, he was indeed all these things.) He was again silenced, forbidden to teach or publish in Hungarian, but some of his work was smuggled out and printed in West Germany.

In 1956, Lukács was a member of the revolutionary Nagy government. That’s why he was arrested by the Soviet soldiers and temporarily deported to Romania. When he was brought back, he was expelled from the Party, blacklisted, and pensioned off. Once again, he had to smuggle his texts abroad, this time to West Germany, where Luchterhand Verlag began to publish his complete works (a project taken over by Aisthesis Verlag in 2009). A slander campaign was launched against him both in Hungary and in the DDR; he was now condemned as a “revisionist” and, possibly, “counter-revolutionary.” Entire volumes were dedicated to making this case; they were even translated into quite a few languages.

In 1968, Lukács expressed his sympathy for the reforms and protests in Czechoslovakia, as well as for the youth movements in the West. He protested against the Soviet occupation of Prague, which resulted in yet another excommunication. Later, however, his Party membership was silently restored and, with the advent of reforms in Hungary, he was, to some extent, rehabilitated. But this came too late: he died in 1971.

Absurdly, Lukács’s political troubles didn’t end after his death. In 1973, his disciples were condemned by the Central Committee’s ideological outfit and blacklisted; they lost their jobs and could no longer publish.

And now, in today’s Hungary, Lukács is declared, à titre posthume, an “enemy of the people” for having been a communist leader, a Party favorite, a propagandist in the service of the Kádár régime  -  the same regime that strove to shut him up and almost succeeded. That he served in the 1956 revolutionary government  -  officially celebrated today by the anticommunist conservatives - is conveniently forgotten."
This is from an over-the-top, polemical, exaggerated piece by philosopher G. M. Tamás, a Green leftist who hates Viktor Orbán’s current Hungarian Government.

Personally I see little wrong with defending your country, preventing it being transformed into another dysfunctional middle-eastern/north-african disaster.

Georg Lukács is a hero of mine on account of his idealistic passion, his enormous erudition and general immense smartness. I learned a lot. That doesn't blind me to the fact that in the end he was still signed up to the Marxist blank-slate delusion which has led to its own disasters everywhere it has been tried.

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